Red fruit not only reflects the traditional Valentine holiday color, it's delicious and heart healthy, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames. Red fruit, such as strawberries, cherries, red grapes, apples and watermelon, provide important nutrients that promote good health.
“Bright red, heart-shaped strawberries are the perfect Valentine fruit,” Reames says. “Although spring marks the height of the Louisiana strawberry season, Louisiana strawberries are now often available from November through May – especially this year.”
To make them an appealing gift, arrange fresh strawberries in a heart-shaped container, cover them with clear wrap and tie it up with a bright red bow.
Strawberries are naturally healthful. They’re high in fiber, vitamin C, folate, potassium and antioxidants, low in calories, and practically fat- and sodium-free, she says. “Ounce for ounce, strawberries have more vitamin C than citrus fruit.”
If strawberries aren’t for you, try this novel Valentine’s gift idea. Present your special someone with a personal watermelon.
If you're a watermelon fan, you don't have to wait for the classic summer fruit. Several grocery stores, especially larger chain stores, offer personal watermelons most of the year.
The personal watermelon usually weighs about two or three pounds and is sweeter than other varieties, Reames says. It can be a one-meal melon or it can be cut in half with part saved for later.
“Most types have a deep red flesh and a thinner rind than the larger varieties, and they’re designed to be seedless,” Reames says. “And the small size of personal watermelons makes them easy to store in most refrigerators.”
To make one a gift, tie a bright red ribbon and bow around the middle of the melon to enjoy as a centerpiece for a Valentine’s dinner or party. “After the meal, cut the melon, and serve it as dessert,” she says.
“Watermelon is low in calories – about 8 calories per ounce,” Reames says. “One pound of watermelon gives you only 128 calories, far less than a chocolate candy bar.”
Watermelon has heart-healthy properties because it is naturally low in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol. It is an excellent source of potassium and vitamins A, C and B6, and it contains more lycopene than any other fresh fruit or vegetable.
“Lycopene is the red pigment that gives the watermelon its color and is an antioxidant that may be linked to lower risk of certain cancers,” Reames says.
And don’t worry, Reames says you can include chocolate with your Valentine’s gift.
“Fruit and chocolate are a delicious combination,” she says. “Enjoyed in moderation, dark chocolate is a satisfying treat that can provide nutritional value.”
Dark chocolate contains flavonoids that come from extracts of the cocoa bean. Choosing dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa gives your body more of these healthy antioxidants.
To enjoy chocolate with fruit, prepare a low-fat dark-chocolate fondue for dipping fruit slices, she says. Or mix cocoa power and a small amount of sugar or non-nutritive sweetener in a shaker to sprinkle on fruit.
Finally, you can enjoy a couple of chocolate kisses at only 26 calories per kiss.